Carpe Diem. I am reminded each day that we are here to seize the moment.
When we marinate in indecision, fear, the “what ifs,” we truly miss the point. That’s the idea this blog tour aims to support. That even though we’re afraid, we still need to live fully.
What we didn’t plan for was the level at which we would learn this on Day 2 of a 21-day sojourn.
Here’s the story.
We decided to start our 6 Region wine/spa blog journey in Jackson, the first town north of Ashland, Oregon at Lithia Springs Resort where we have stayed (and I have blogged about) many times before. We know the landscape there in every season, including Covid Season. It’s also positioned between the Rogue Valley and Applegate wine regions so was the perfect spot. Ticked all our boxes with the spa options, food, wine, and walk. The movies were even open.
The first day we woke up and, after meditation, headed out on our favorite walk along the Bear Creek Greenway. Beautiful, as always, I felt a deep appreciation for the blue sky and kept taking pictures I would not normally take of trees reaching high up against the sky. I kept stopping and looking at them, admiring their artistry against blue canvas. So much of California had been under fire sky that blue was a welcome sight.
We walked for several hours down to the bridge and across the creek. We saw a homeless man sleeping in a pitched tent. We saw a snake in the middle of our path.
Through the trees, we spotted a beautiful flower garden we had never seen before. Mike said he remembered seeing a flower farm sign as we were heading out so we looked for it on the way back and found it.
We walked down to what looked like commune living. Some trailers and the smell of frankincense filled the space. I asked a young woman about the flower farm and she directed us “through a gate and down the hill, past the house, around the trees, and if you get to the grapes, you’ve gone too far.”
We walked down this sort-of path in between two structures and saw a few young people hanging out in an open building to the right. Just as I saw them, I felt these little claws on my calf, and something crawl up my body. I jumped and waved my arms and yelled, “What the hell was that?”
“Oh, don’t worry. He’s tame,” the squirrel tamer laughed.
We stood and watched for a minute as they handled the squirrel and showed us its tricks. Impressive, really. Then we headed past a tiny house in search of flowers, waving goodbye to my squirrel friend (who Mike is pretty sure is an ex-boyfriend based on his behavior as we were trying to leave.)
We headed into the fields of sunflowers as big as the sun, and rows and rows of zinnias in all colors.
We looked inside the greenhouse and saw a great big lazy Golden who I thought must have a happy, quiet life with the old man moving slowly and tending his garden.
We walked all the way to the grapes, and the sun was hitting them just right so I took these shots because I’m a bit obsessed with grape photography. I think it’s a hold-over from my days of studying Greek and Roman mythology.
We headed back out, past the peace flags, past the tire swing, past the couches in make-shift outdoor forts, past the hammocks. A simple life, this life. The squirrel peeked out from behind the tiny house, and positioned for the jump, but I was ready for him this time. Still, he chased us all the way up the hill and we finally had this moment that now haunts me.
His eyes. It was like he was trying to tell me something.
This beautiful walk is the last one anybody will take through that flower farm. At last call, 40,000 people had been missing and unaccounted for. The man. His dog. The young people in the flower farm. The homeless man in his tent. My squirrel.
The next day after our walk, while we were working in our hotel room, and monitoring fires remotely in Northern California where we live, we heard a helicopter. We opened the door to billowing black smoke and flames. We had skipped our walk that morning because of wind gusts that were breaking tree limbs. If we hadn’t, we would have been right in that area where the fire was just like all the other people enjoying the greenway for the last time.
In an adrenaline filled rush, we threw all our stuff in suitcases and into the car. The area was chaos. I was worried about the people next door in the memory care facility who hadn’t been out since March due to Covid Season.
And my squirrel. And the people. And the trees.
But there are heroes in this story.
Lithia car company next door to our hotel brought out their vans and piled patients in and to safety. First responders blocked intersections to help get people out. A kind man smiled at me (as we were freaking out because we were stuck in a line of cars that could potentially burn at any moment if the wind turned), rolled down his window, and navigated us to the best fire free route to Medford.
There was the woman at the Common Block Brewing Company where we ended up (looking for a Starbucks) and was our server/therapist as we poured out our traumatic story in our unbathed exercise outfits as we had planned to go to the gym and hadn’t showered yet.
Perhaps our biggest hero was Shannon Johnson. When we finally decided that we would stay in Medford for the night, hoping we were far enough north of the fire, she was standing in the Medford Courtyard Marriott with big smiling eyes popping out behind her mask. She talked to us for about 15 minutes as we debated if we were far enough north and she told us exactly what was happening. There were fires to the north as well, and they had a solid evacuation plan. Even though we got a call at 10:00 pm that night saying we were at a Level 2 and may have to evacuate again, we knew Shannon would get us to a safe place. We just knew it. Even though she had much to worry about herself (as her home and children were in Ashland), she made sure we had a place for the night.
Here’s the thing. Had we not got our butts up and taken that walk the day before it burned, we would have never had the chance again in that version of the greenway. If I had not stopped to appreciate the blue of the sky, it would be days until I saw it again and that tree would no longer be part of this. It was interesting to me that this all happened so close to 9/11, a day in my country’s history we will never forget.
A day when everything changes, it ripples and those ripples are felt forever. And out of these tragedies emerge so many heroes, such an invitation to love more and fear less. It’s a chance to seize the moment fully, for really, what else is there?